For publisher's and/or book stores' staff who can't read? As in "Fetch
me three green circles."
No, it doesn't make sense, but why else? Joy
> --- In email@example.com, David Rachels <RachelsDA@...> wrote:
>> A random question, prompted by Jeff's awesome list: Does anyone know
>> what the symbols on the spines of some GM paperbacks mean? (They are
>> near the top, underneath the catalog number.) Looking at the shelf
>> in front of me, for example, I see a red heart on #380, a black X on
>> #409, a black box on #448, a black hourglass on #522, a black circle
>> on #500, a green club on #224, etc. etc., but the majority of them do
>> not have these markings.
> I can't give a complete answer, but I have some information.
> The "spine symbols" (as I've always called them) fall into three
> 1. From 213 through 225 (and maybe 226 and 227, copies of which I,
> alas, do not own), each book carries a spine symbol that's either a star
> or a card-suit (club, diamond, heart, spade), and is either red green or
> black. I can't see any pattern to them. There are no repetitions; that
> is, for instance, 225 and no other has a red spade, 216 and no other has
> a green diamond, etc. The only book in this group that was reprinted
> with the same stock number is 222 (Vin Packer's SPRING FIRE), and both
> printings show the same black club.
> 2. Then there were no more spine symbols until 244 (or maybe 243, which
> I'm missing). From 244 to d387, there is a spine symbol in red green or
> black on every book, with a very few exceptions. (313 doesn't have a
> symbol at all; Red Seals 13 through 28, which fall into this time
> period, have spine symbols in white yellow or red, contrasting with
> their spine colours; and some of the Gold Medal covers that feature
> wraparound paintings instead of the usual gold spine have symbols in a
> contrasting white.) The symbols themselves are much more various in
> this period, including not only card-suits and stars, but letters, rings
> and circles, arrangements of four squares, plus-marks, vertical and
> horizontal oblongs, triangles, squares, bowties, arrows ... you get the
> The only pattern I've been able to see is that each month's publications
> have a sort of similar theme to all their spine symbols, without any
> actual repetitions within the month. For instance, books published in
> August 1952 feature a square in their spine symbols -- 250 has a black
> square, 251 has a green square with a line next to it, 252 has a green
> square with no line, 253 has a black square with a line, 254 has a red
> square, 255 has a red square with a line; even Red Seal 17, published
> that same month, has a white square. But it's only August with squares;
> July has circles, September has little triangles.
> Besides that, though, all bets are off about seeing patterns. Sometimes
> two colours appear in the same spine symbol (348 has a green S with a
> black I, 352 has a black S with a red plus, 353 a red S with a black
> plus, etc.). Invariably, later printings of the same stock number have
> the same spine symbol.
> 3. From 388 through 566 the spine symbols are all black (except on a
> couple of wraparound paintings); and from 567 through 675 they're all
> red. In this range, the "monthly theme" seems to have been dropped, but
> there is a kind of discernible pattern. The spine symbols, with some
> exceptions to the cycle, become kind of periodic, with a period of 10.
> If the last digit of the book number is 0, the spine symbol is a circle;
> if the last digit is 1, it's a vertical bar; 2 a bowtie; 3 a triangle; 4
> a diamond; 5 a star; 6 a horizontal bar; 7 a cross; 8 a square; and 9 a
> letter X. (The symbols were clearly chosen with the corresponding
> number in mind, as the 0, 1, 3, 4, 5 show.)
> The exceptions (the black diamond on s403, black square on 553, black
> triangle on 554, and possibly some more) probably indicate times when
> the order of publication was changed at the last minute.
> After 675 there are no more spine symbols, except that at least three
> (s774, 914, and 972) have spine symbols left over from earlier printings
> of the same titles that nobody (apparently) remembered to remove from
> the cover art.
> Lots of information ... but why they bothered with spine symbols at all,
> I have no idea.
> -- John Woolley (What me, obsessed?)
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